COVID-19 officially arrived in Colorado less than four weeks ago. The virus has upended all of our daily routines and left us wondering what’s next. While many of us are still trying to navigate and make sense of new realities, it’s clear this pandemic will have greater consequences for some communities more than others. Those with the least access to economic, social, and political resources and power are most likely to contract the disease and are also most likely to lose their income or health care during shutdowns and social distancing measures.
Immigrants, already forced to make impossible decisions for their families due to new federal laws and rules like Public Charge, find themselves largely boxed out of the health care system and afraid to seek services despite being one of the most at-risk populations in this pandemic. Immigrants without documentation have high rates of uninsurance because laws and policies prevent them from accessing most coverage options and they don’t qualify for cash assistance through the recently passed federal stimulus package. People with housing instability or those experiencing homelessness have limited ability to participate in social distancing and don’t have a safe place to quarantine or recover. Amidst unprecedented social restrictions, accessibility issues are everywhere, including for people with disabilities, people who speak languages other than English, people who lack transportation, and more, will all struggle to comply with government mandates and access necessary services.
People living in poverty or with precarious employment are particularly at risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19. A lack of paid sick time, child care, health insurance, and other resources that are needed to navigate this pandemic are less available to people with low incomes, expanding the risk. As more and more people are pushed into poverty as a direct result of COVID-19—due to businesses shuttering doors, diminishing hours, and layoffs—the long-term effects on health will be devastating, especially for communities of color across Colorado, even with federal assistance coming.
We can and must respond. Center for Health Progress has taken a number of steps to do our part. We’ve adapted our internal policies to protect employees, including decreasing workloads, reducing our work week to 32 hours (with full pay), and expanding paid sick leave. We’ve shifted a number of our core strategies to respond to the evolving needs in our communities, including identifying and distributing resources for immigrants and the uninsured and will be launching a rapid response fund for front line agencies who are serving immigrants and uninsured patients. Throughout this time, we’re continuing to fight for laws and policies that make it possible for everyone to take care of themselves and their families.
As is the case with any natural or human-made disaster, those who our laws and policies have always failed are hurt first and worst. Immigrants, Native Americans, women of color, the disability community, and other groups have led the fight for many of the civil rights and basic protections we have in place now. Those most impacted continue to lead the efforts to pass policies we know could have prevented much of the hardship Coloradans are feeling today. Those in power have protected themselves and their families with paid leave, health insurance, legal documentation, union support, and other benefits, at the expense of the people and workers who keep our economy moving, leaving many of our “essential” workers vulnerable to hunger, poverty, disease, and homelessness--again. You are at-risk of dying from COVID-19; we all are. But the risks go beyond the disease and are very inequitably distributed.
In the short term, we hope you’ll join us in calling on our federal and state leaders to use every tool at their disposal to stop the freefall of our economy and health. In the long-term, please join us in this fight for health equity. As COVID-19 has so clearly demonstrated, all of our lives depend on it.